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It will never cease to amaze me how quickly our school years go by; and now, another is in the rear view mirror. SY 2016-17 is put to our memories as we anticipate SY 2017-18 which will start again in three short months. This has been quite a year. We started off with new windows at the HS (paid for with Health/Life/Safety money that can only be used for buildings), remodeled kitchens in the HS Home Economics room (thank you to CAM Foundation and your donations), and the celebration of 25 years of consolidation as Central A&M. As communities, we mourned the loss of two of our own boys in mid-September and still miss them every day at the HS, throughout the district and in our towns. Our academic, music and sports teams at all grade levels have done well – our students and athletes have worked hard and pushed themselves and their teammates to get to the next level of achievement.
The class of 2017 will graduate (Saturday, 5/20/17) 59 students who have learned the standards and studied the courses that the state requires for graduation. We are graduating future teachers, welders, electricians, information technologists, web designers, chefs, nurses, entrepreneurs, farmers, scientists, doctors and the list goes on. This is our future. Our Central A&M future is strong!!
At Central A&M we offer many outstanding programs PreK through 12th grade. On top of our “reading, writing and arithmetic”, here are a few of the new and exciting things happening at CUD #21: our WIFI system has been updated to allow more internet access for our computers throughout the district, taking us closer to one computer for every student (1:1). This will allow each student to take on 21st Century learning expectations, preparing them for future learning success and job readiness. At CAM, critical thinking, problem solving and innovation are encouraged at all levels of the district. 5th Graders work with GSI Engineers to plan and build a Rube Goldberg machine for competition. Middle school students are learning how to collaborate on projects using Google and Chromebooks. We are one of the first districts in this region to teach our students 3-D printing. Next school year, we will be implementing a Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) maker space lab into our HS media center. Students will be able to design, build and develop while they learn STEM skills. Why all this push to technology?? According to James Brown, the executive director of the STEM Education Coalition in Washington DC, "The future of the economy is in STEM. That’s where the jobs of tomorrow will be.” Further, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that employment in occupations related to STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—is projected to grow to more than 9 million between 2012 and 2022. These jobs are not only for college bound students, but also technical and vocational students. We are also putting job shadowing back into our curriculum, allowing students to explore their interests. It is our job to prepare our kids for their future.
You have all heard the saga of our state budget and lack of funding, and I would be lying if I said we don’t need to be concerned with what the State of Illinois is doing to education. We DO need to be watchful – all of us. We need to contact our congressmen and senators and tell them that the time to pass and FUND a budget is NOW. The state of Illinois is now $12.5 billion dollars in debt, and that number is growing exponentially, the state’s school districts are only one sector of who is owed money. Central A&M is owed $427,849 for this current year (we received a payment of $95,992 two weeks ago after the big “Pass Illinois’ Budget” push). That being said, Central A&M is fiscally sound. We received a 4.0 Recognition score on a 4.0 scale of the state’s District Financial Profile. You can see that HERE. As a district, we are seeing a mobility trend that is to me as concerning as the state funding. The two situations really go hand in hand. Here is the trend: our district has not seen an increase of students since 2012. In 2012, we had 894 students, this year we had 762 students. This drop in students is for various reasons, such as: not as many babies are being born in our towns; families are moving to secure jobs; more parents are homeschooling, split parenting and the list goes on. This decline causes smaller class sizes and results in more space within our buildings. As the district leader, it is my job to analyze situations and discuss with the board of education what is best for our students, teachers, staff and our buildings and grounds. If the state gets farther behind in their payments, we will continue to look at how to stretch an already fairly tight dollar. I hope you agree with me when I say this process of analyzing is simply sound financial practice. I go back to a previous statement that our district is financially sound but we are watchful and taking measures to save money as we can, while not putting the education of our students in jeopardy. Earlier I mentioned several new initiatives to our district. If the state were paying all of the money it owes to us (the shortage on payments goes back to 2010, to the first state proration of general state aide) just imagine what we could do!
It is the district's goal that by the time this year's Kindergartners graduate from Central A&M in 2029, we will be able to say that we have prepared them as we have prepared the previous 12 classes and that we will prepare the myriad of classes after them to be college and/or career ready, in whatever field they choose to pursue. We are Raider Strong. We are Central A&M.